The sun shined bright and warm on the morning of Jan. 21 as nearly 200 people showed up at the Humboldt county courthouse to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event was put on by Centro del Pueblo, Justice for Josiah, NAACP and the Seven Generation Fund for the Rights of Indigenous People. Nathaniel McGuigan, a senior majoring in biology, was there to show his support.
“I am here to commemorate the radical legacy of Martin Luther King and to further demand justice for the family of Josiah Lawson,” McGuigan said.
The event kicked off at 10:30 a.m. with a speech from Yurok tribal elder Jene L. McCovey. McCovey blessed the event and acknowledged some of the problems currently happening in the country such as the family separation policy and the migration problems at the U.S/Mexico border. The event at the courthouse featured a number of speakers from a variety of organizations. Renee Saucedo, volunteer organizer for Centro del Pueblo, was the first to take the stage after McCovey’s blessing and spoke of some of the problems people of color in Humboldt face.
“There is still racial profiling, racial bias, poverty and homelessness,” Saucedo said to the crowd. “By us being here today, we are showing that we are going to continue to fight to change these things.”
Deema Hindawi, a junior majoring in criminology and justice studies, also gave a speech detailing her experiences here in Humboldt. Hindawi spoke of micro-aggressions and how students of color feel othered in the community. Charmaine Lawson, mother of the late Josiah Lawson, was also in attendance and gave a riveting speech.
“I stand here still waiting for justice to be served and I’m not going anywhere,” Lawson said to a cheering crowd. “When we send our children to college, we want them to come back alive.”
Lawson also demanded justice for Corey Clark and Garret Rodriguez; both victims of unsolved murders here in Humboldt. After the speeches a march took place, ending at the Adorni Center on Waterfront Drive in Eureka. The chiefs of police for Eureka and Arcata were in attendance, as well as Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone and Allen McCloskey, Union Leader for the National Health Care Workers. Brian Ahearn, chief of police for the city of Arcata, said that he attended the event at the invitation of Steve Watson, Eureka’s chief of police.
“I’m here to build solidarity and to recognize Martin Luther King Jr., to remember Josiah Lawson and all victims of violence,” Ahearn said. “Today is about healing and continuing the process.”
Ahearn is fairly new to the area and has come in amidst a number of resignations from local law enforcement; most of whom have been involved with the Lawson case. Ahearn has expressed a desire to build bridges and to tear down barriers between the community and law enforcement. Chief Steve Watson of Eureka PD expressed similar desires.
“I am here to support our community coming together,” Watson said. “Events like this are good to build bridges. I long for the day that these uniforms we have on are not feared.”
Correction: A previous version of this article listed McCovey as a Wiyot tribe member. (Updated 9:25 a.m. 1/24/19)